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Vardhan NS

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last updated on June 18, 2024
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Let me quickly address the definition of ASPM before I jump into the crux of this article- key features, benefits and best practices to keep in mind when implementing ASPM at an enterprise.

What is ASPM (Application Security Posture Management)?

Application Security Posture Management (or ASPM) is the act of analyzing security signals across the SDLC – from development and deployment through to operations in order to improve visibility, better manage vulnerabilities and enforce security controls.

Why is Application Security Posture Management important?

Simply put, it is fundamental for sustaining business growth. In a world infested with cyber threats, having a robust ASPM program is becoming mandatory. Especially, but not restricted to enterprises, where reputation and brand image is a crucial driver for business growth. 

Unfortunately, the need for security across the SDLC is not emphasized enough. Given that malicious actors are innovatively targeting the most unexpected parts of the software supply chain, it is all the more reason for large enterprises to beef up their security systems.

Now that I’ve established the context for ASPM, let’s understand the key features that make up a robust ASPM program.

What are the key features of a robust ASPM program?

Here are the essential features of a comprehensive ASPM program:

ASPM Program Key Features

1. Continuous Monitoring & Assessment

Having visibility into the security state of applications and infrastructure is the crucial first step towards a healthy AppSec posture. By automatically scanning and monitoring different aspects of the application and infrastructure for vulnerabilities and security gaps, SecOps and AppSec teams can be mobilized quickly for an appropriate response in the event of threats.

2. Risk Management - Detection, Correlation, Prioritization

Security threats are inevitable. Hence having a process in place to detect risks, analyzing their potential impact and prioritizing the risks accordingly makes all the difference.

3. Cross Lifecycle Data Synthesis

Software delivery is a complex process involving numerous tools and workflows. Gathering data from each of these tools and processes in the SDLC helps make informed decisions and ensure proactive security.

4. Security Orchestration

In continuation to the above point, any ASPM program or tool for ASPM should act as a manager of other security tools in the ecosystem and drive policy enforcement. Cross Lifecycle Data Synthesis is one aspect, but driving decision making and enforcing regulations is the real deal.

What benefits does ASPM offer?

Implementing an ASPM solution provides numerous benefits. The prominent one’s among them are:

1. Improved Risk Management

An ongoing ASPM program helps teams be prepared for a course of action when faced with threats and vulnerabilities. SecOps teams can be more organized in terms of anticipating risks, attaching a priority to them and addressing them accordingly. In the absence of ASPM, it’s all panic and chaos. 

2. Streamlined Compliance

A robust ASPM program will ensure that your team/ individuals are aware of the responsibilities and make them accountable for their actions. Overall this ensures that industry or organization rules are not flouted upon and they are compliant with the established policies.

3. Better Decision Making

This is one of the best outcomes of an ASPM program. An ASPM tool will help teams make data-driven decisions by the means of empirical evidence. If configured correctly, you can automate workflows and reduce workload on human resources during emergencies.

4. Increased Operational Efficiency

ASPM’s emphasis on integration and automation reduces manual effort. The likes of security assessments, vulnerability management, and compliance reporting are automated, thus freeing up resources for other critical tasks.

5. Improved Incident Response

By integrating existing tools for SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) and SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) with Incident Response and On-Call management tools, you can notify application developers immediately to empower them to respond in a timely manner with all the context needed to address the threat(s).

Which best practices should be followed for effective ASPM implementation?

Careful planning and adherence to best practices is key to maximizing the benefits of a successful ASPM implementation. Here are the 5 most important best practices in my opinion:

ASPM Best Practices for Implementation

1. Automate and integrate wherever possible

The foundation of ASPM is based on how well the specific tool/ solution is integrated with other tools in the SDLC. I cannot emphasize enough on the need to bring data from different application security testing tools, compliance management tools, and monitoring tools into one centralized solution (ASPM) in order to make informed decisions.

2. Complement Shift-left security

Shift-left Security testing is a trend that most organizations have already caught onto. By shifting ‘security’ to the left in SDLC / DevOps, you not only set yourself up for early detection and mitigation of risks, but also for improved software quality and increased customer trust. And this is very much in line with the values of Application Security Posture Management (ASPM).

3. Monitor and Measure Performance

Continuous security monitoring and KPI measurement of the tools, processes and human resources involved plays a crucial role in overall business operational efficiency. The more data you are able to monitor and collect (of other tools and processes) in the SDLC, the better will be your ASPM implementation.

4. Effective Vulnerability Remediation Process

Vulnerability remediation and proactive threat mitigation is the ultimate goal of an ASPM program. Since threats are inevitable, it is less about preventing them and more about reacting to threats in the situation. With a robust vulnerability management process, you can minimize the impact of security threats and maximize the benefits from ASPM.

5. Foster a Security-Aware Culture

At the end of the day, successful implementation of ASPM boils down to the culture instilled within the organization. Frequent training and awareness programs to educate employees about the importance of application security and how to use ASPM tools effectively plays a crucial role in instilling a security-aware culture.

What considerations must enterprises keep in mind when implementing ASPM?

Enterprises need to consider several critical factors to ensure the solution is effective, aligns with organizational needs, and integrates seamlessly with existing systems. Here are the key considerations:

Considerations for enterprise wide ASPM

Consideration 1: Integration with Existing Systems

Integration into existing workflows is essential to ensure that the ASPM solution enhances, rather than disrupts, the organization’s operational processes. Whether it’s:

  1. CI/CD workflows like Jenkins, 
  2. Application security processes such as code analysis and real-time vulnerability scanning
  3. Incident alerting and response workflows involving alert notifications and on-call reminders, or 
  4. Active policy enforcement with various compliance management workflows…

Your ASPM strategy will only succeed if it integrates seamlessly with existing tools and processes.

And once integrated into existing workflows, the ASPM solution should be capable of assimilating siloed data from each of the above mentioned (and other) processes/workflows, and is able to provide you with contextual analysis for prioritizing security efforts in real time.

Consideration 2: Technical requirements

Ensuring that the ASPM tool meets the necessary technical criteria helps maximize its effectiveness and align with the organization’s security and operational goals. Here are several technical requirements and questions that your proposed ASPM tools must address:

1. Does the ASPM Tool Support Risk-Based Scoring?

Because Risk-based scoring helps prioritize efforts and focus on the most critical vulnerabilities

2. Does the Tool Unify Threat Ingestion?

Unifying threat ingestion means the tool can consolidate threat data from multiple sources, and provide a comprehensive view of the threat landscape.

3. Does the Solution Help Enforce Relevant Security Policies?

Because enforcing security policies is critical to maintaining a consistent and effective security posture, and this must be consistently applied across the organization and teams.

4. Does the ASPM Tool Produce Dynamic Contextual Insights?

Dynamic contextual insights enable security teams to understand the broader implications of vulnerabilities and threats which can prevent them from overlooking serious issues.

5. Does the ASPM Tool Help Generate Audit Reports?

Audit report generation facilitates compliance and demonstrates the effectiveness of security measures. 

By ensuring these capabilities, enterprises can effectively manage their application security posture and maintain a strong defense against evolving threats.

Consideration 3: Implementation Approach

A well-planned approach ensures that the solution not only integrates smoothly and meets organizational needs, but it also scales effectively as the organization grows.

Vendor Reputation and Experience: It is necessary to choose a vendor with a proven track record in providing ASPM (or related application security) solutions and has a good reputation.

Feature Set: Ensure the vendor’s solution offers all necessary features such as risk-based scoring, threat ingestion, policy enforcement, dynamic insights, and audit reporting or is atleast able to integrate with tools that provide this data.

Technology Stack: Verify that the solution supports your organization’s technology stack, including development environments, operating systems, and cloud platforms

Maintenance and Updates: Ensure the vendor provides regular updates, security patches, and enhancements to keep the solution effective against emerging threats.

Scalability/ Capacity for Growth: The solution should be able to handle an increasing number of applications, users, and data as the organization grows

Flexibility: The solution should support a range of IT environments and also be adaptable to different types of applications, and regulatory requirements.

Modularity: You should prefer a solution that is modular, allowing you to add or upgrade features without significant disruption to the existing setup.

Consideration 4: Assessing Organizational Needs

Assessing organizational needs is a fundamental step when evaluating and implementing an ASPM solution. This ensures that the solution aligns with the organization’s unique requirements and integrates smoothly into its existing framework.

Instilling a Security-first Culture:  

Understanding how security is perceived and prioritized across different departments will help you assess their openness to change. This can help identify potential resistance points and plan for change management strategies to ease transitions.

Stakeholder Relations:

You must identify the key stakeholders across the organization and consider involving them early in the ASPM implementation process to gather input, understand their concerns, and ensure their needs are addressed. It is necessary to maintain open and continuous communication with all stakeholders providing updates on progress, gather feedback, and make adjustments as needed.

User Training and Awareness:

You must consider delivering comprehensive training programs for all team members on how to effectively use the ASPM solution and also deliver custom training sessions for critical job roles and responsibilities. You must also conduct regular security awareness programs to reinforce the importance of application security and the role of each employee in maintaining it.

How can OpsMx help you implement ASPM?

OpsMx’s Delivery Shield can help you continuously manage the security posture of your application – from development through to deployment. There are numerous capabilities within the Delivery Shield that can help you upkeep your security posture and ensure effective ASPM. Some of them are:

Deployment Firewall

OpsMx’s Deployment Firewall provides the means to enforce application security policies at the point of deployment. It does so by adding a gating mechanism to your existing CI/CD tools which guarantees compliance and prevents the release of out-of-compliance deployments (eg: deployments with CVEs/ vulnerabilities in code).

Deployment Firewall

Delivery Bill of Materials (DeliveryBOM)

OpsMx’s DBOM captures a comprehensive, consolidated record of every step in the software delivery and deployment process, including security checks, approvals, policy enforcement, and audits. Source code security and Vulnerability assessment, artifact validation, and build security validation are some of the activities that OpsMx’s DBOM can help you with.

Delivery Bill of Materials (Delivery BOM)

Continuous Risk Assessment and Vulnerability Management

OpsMx’s Delivery Shield can help you proactively identify, assess, and mitigate security risks across your software supply chain. It can consolidate security results and alerts from different sources, update you on the security score and severity levels of threats via a DevSecOps dashboard to help you visualize the security posture, and more.

Continuous Risk Assessment and Vulnerability Management​

Compliance Automation and Policy Enforcement

OpsMx’s Delivery Shield streamlines compliance verification across the software delivery lifecycle by automating policy enforcement and audit reporting. With built-in support for regulatory compliances such as FedRamp, PCI, HIPAA and frameworks such as NIST 800-53, FedRAMP, OpenSSF Scorecard, OWASP Top 10, MITRE-ATT&CK, CIS Benchmark, and the NSA CISA Top 10, OpsMx records audit trails and attestations to help you demonstrate proof of compliance.

Compliance Automation and Policy Enforcement

About OpsMx

OpsMx is a leading innovator and thought leader in the Secure Continuous Delivery space. Leading technology companies such as Google, Cisco, Western Union, among others rely on OpsMx to ship better software faster.

OpsMx Secure CD is the industry’s first CI/CD solution designed for software supply chain security. With built-in compliance controls, automated security assessment, and policy enforcement, OpsMx Secure CD can help you deliver software quickly without sacrificing security.

OpsMx Delivery Shield adds DevSecOps to your existing CI/CD tools with application security orchestration, correlation, and posture management.

Vardhan NS

Vardhan is a technologist and a marketing professional, currently working as a Sr. PMM at OpsMx. His strength lies in understanding complex technologies, and explaining them in un-complicated ways. Vardhan is a passionate Product Marketer with a keen focus on Content, helping brands Position themselves uniquely with clear messaging and competitive differentiation. Outside of work, he is an athlete that is passionate about Football, Swimming and Surfing.

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